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Wednesday
Aug102011

Just Say 'No': Programming Your Brain's RAS System to Hate Size Zero Fashion Ads

Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell

(Note from Anne: This may be the first connect-the-dots article I wrote over two years go, one that synthesizes my own philosophy on self-image and self-esteem; the powerful players — mostly men — who promote size 0 women in the fashion industry; the movement to desexualize women since the late 90s by taking away any muscles or curves; and the larger movement afoot to disempower women worldwide.

Since its original writing, these topics are communicated frequently at AOC in what I daresay is a losing battle for women, if we don’t get our butts in gear.

The title of the article is only picked up in my final words — we can reprogram our brains to hate size 0 fashion ads, if we choose. Rather than break this article in two — which a good editor would now do — we will leave it as one of my meandering, touch all the pulse point articles that I’m known for. My self-editing skills are far better today, than when I first began writing.

A new article appeared in Science Daily today, one that reinforces my own argument that we can reprogram our brains — in this case about food choices, which I also believe in and practice in my own life.

When is see one of those mouthwatering images of a biggie-burger with cheese, what really goes through my mind is a vision of a burger that will kill me prematurely, destroy my sexuality, make me fat and not Sensual and Superyoung. It will also make me stupid and contribute to the fact that I will dislike the woman in the mirror (me) if I respond favorably to this immediate gratification. 

I have convinced myself that the burger is poison and best worn as American art or fashion, and not food.


I’ve struggled very hard over the years to control my weight. The only solution I know of is this one — to develop a host of mental bullets that I use against both size 0 models only as a beauty standard (I have no objections to some) and food messages offering me immediate gratification with a 1500 calorie burger that will kill me early.

Self-control is much stronger than we believe as a secret weapon in our self-development arsenal. As women we are not hamsters in the cage; we have the ability to turn our brains into our best friend, putting us in charge for once. Not ads, not fashion designers in Paris, not the business establishment, not peer pressure and popular culture. The last challenge is the most difficult of all.

As these scientists confirm in today’s learnings about the brain and self-control, the learnings have applications in many other aspects of our lives. I argue they can be applied to our own self-perceptions and how we respond to ridiculously emaciated women in fashion ads.

I am studying all the new research concerning mind power, since I wrote this essay and will issue a new essay that beings in the brain soon. Anne

The Cultural Reasons Why Women Should Reprogram Our Brains To Hate Size 0 Fashion Ads and Anything Other Commercial Message Not Good for Mind and Body

80s powerhouse supermodel Cindy Crawford told German celebrity magazine Bunte that she would stand no chance of being a successful model today.

“A body like mine with big breasts, normal thighs and toned upper arms” is no longer what the industry is looking for, she said. via New Zealand Herald

Desensualizing the Supermodels

Cindy’s healthy athletic figure was the rage in the 80s and 90s, along with Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour. Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and more.

As a former Victoria’s Secret exec who worked with many of these models, I know we are in a time warp with today’s fashion designers, who care most of all about themselves and their brands. Neither models nor consumers penetrate the minds of today’s fashion patriarchy.

Models exist as coat hangers for fashion designers, experts explain, asking why women like me can’t get that reality through my pretty blond head. As fashion hangers, women must be as thin as humanly possible.

The problem is, this image does become deeply entrenched in the human psyche — among women and men. Much scientific research documents the fact that human minds process ad images as intended. Otherwise, why would advertising exist?

The Old Days

80s supermodels proved that you could be healthy and slim, that you had breasts (god forbid) and often hips and a booty besides. Simply stated, as a supermodel, you were thin but sensual. The vast majority of us would never look like any of these supermodel women, but it wasn’t dangerous to our health and wellbeing to try. It’s estimated that one in four women could achieve a 4-6 US supermodel body if she put her mind to it and stayed the course.

Sensual supermodels are now called a ‘relic of the past’, although most have been called up out of retirement the past two years. Believe it or not, they continue to have style credibility.

Chanel, Spring 2010 ready-to-wearIt irks me to no end that Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, and the guys at Ralph Lauren in their Photoshop mishaps, try to brush off what is a very real change in the bodies of women who are suitable for modeling today. Now do I accept the current state of affairs as an example of ‘change is good’.

When I saw this leg photo of a model in Karl Lagerfeld’s Spring 2010 runway show, I gasped. My calling these women ‘concentration camp survivors’ is not an exaggeration. If Filippa Hamilton looked like the 80s supermodels at the top of this article, her Photoshopped self looks like the woman above.

Today that model — Isabelle Caro — is dead of anorexia.

Absolutely, the Supemodels models begin to look “fat” — not womanly and healthy — against photos like the one above, and it plays with our brains, especially given the larger societal peer pressures at work.

Karl Lagerfeld, May 2000 via Huffington PostCurves Are for Bad Girls

Karl Lagerfeld, now a 95-pound man, but formerly a fat one, has become the global ‘female body standard dictator’, who told the magazine Focus in October 2009 that ‘no one wants to look at a woman with curves.’

Says who?

Looking at Natalia Vodianova’s body in Vogue’s May 2009 issue, photographed by Steven Meisel, in a series called The Great Pretender, I wonder if the design guys believe she’s ‘too fat’, too. With three children under those abs, will Vodianova soon be like in-demand Lara Stone, saying that she’s tired of being the fat girl at size 4?

As you’ll see in a moment, Lara Stone is anything but ‘fat’. Lagerfeld used her in what I wrote is a totally vacuous, Chanel commercial. See Chanel Dressing Room Movie Suppresses Sensuality Under the Weight of Material Desire. at Sensuality News.

I want some fashion editor to hand Karl Lagerfeld a pile of photos of nearly naked women (or in the buff) and check off ‘fat’ or ‘not fat’.

Natalia Vodianova in Vogue 2009, photo by Steven MeiselPlay Nice, Just Like Sarah Jessica Parker

The insistence that women pursue size zero bodies is not only dangerous to our health, but it smacks of a strong preference that women remain submissive and non-threatening.

Muscle lust is disruptive to the psyches of men like Karl Lagerfeld. The Chanel visionary may be an enormously talented designer and fabulously creative person, but he is a tyrant with strong women.

I can’t imagine what Karl says about us in private, based on his public comments.

Women need to understand that there are prominent men who genuinely loathe women. Their mindset isn’t vastly different from the morality police, looking for a glimpse of ankle in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and conducting breast-feel inspections in Somalia.

As women, we let the people who detest us define us, setting our own vision of who we must be in the mirror. It’s a vicious cycle of women never measuring up.

Lara Stone in Karl Lagerfeld’s “Fitting Room Follies”

Lara Stone in Karl Lagerfeld’s sort film “Fitting Room Follies”Vast numbers of men don’t detest women, and they are on our side in this discussion.  For every guy who tells us that we look great, we search for the woman who lists our imperfections.

Why do so few male voices control us? We let them dominate our psyches, and then we women turn their negative views about women on ourselves and each other. So much for liberation.

Unlike Robin Givhan who argues that the fashion industry is only responding with the anti-statement to America’s out of control obesity, I believe that American women’s self-hatred and discomfort with body image leads to more eating and heaps more self-loathing.

American Women Are Hampsters in the Cage

There are multiple reasons why American women are so overweight, and a lack of self-discipline is clearly on the list. So is religion that condemns women as sinful and inherently evil sexually, and a food industry that says “biggie size it?” We have the American woman’s pursuit of perfection under impossible circumstances. and let me not forget that we are consumed with being judgmental over ourselves.

Ladies, we have learned our humility lessons well.

We’re all Eve in our own minds, responsible for the downfall of virtue and creation of suffering in every corner of the world. Hence, we must be told what to do by men like Karl Lagerfeld and Ralph Lauren, whose WASP imagery doesn’t speak to the liberation of women at all.

These same psychological, bad-woman challenges, dog women worldwide. Some cultures tongue-lash; others get out the whip. Women become collaborators in making other women feel badly.

How much is anthropological and how much learned behavior, I don’t know. But a woman can choose to “just say no”.

Fortunately, we have an exception. The French women have done the best at escaping outside influences that define them and are known for having a confident, holistic, sensual independence. We American women try to discredit this notion, but the French woman really does exist. I spent years with her.

Based on their body image and aging responses in Dove’s global beauty studies, the Italian and Brazilian women, as well as the French, are also far ahead of the American women in the self-love and self-respect departments.

Only when we turn off all those mostly male, patriarchal voices, stand in front of the bathroom mirror naked, and say “I love you”, will be begin to dig ourselves our of this rut. This is scientifically possible, and I will explain.

Loving ourselves, considering ourselves worthy and valuable as women is sinful, egotistic and not behaving in a virtuous manner in many societies. Only when our heads are humbly down are we in a virtuous position in many cultures or religions.

Women and children in broken-up Texas Mormon Polygamy sect, 2008Maureen Dowd reminded us this weekend that Pope Benedict wrote a document in 2004, urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.” via The Nun’s Story

Dealing with religious authorities is enough of a challenge for women worldwide. Defending ourselves as spiritual creatures in the onslaught of guilt is draining to many women around the world.

The dictatorial body-image guilt of the fashion industry has got to go. Our relationship with God and religious authorities is one thing to work on. Karl Lagerfeld and the fashion industry are small potatoes in the real meaning of life and not worth our mental energy.

We should not expect fashion to ‘get real’, especially in a world where size 4 Lara Stone is “curvy”, translated fat. As luxury moves Eastward, into more patriarchal societies with generally smaller and more obedient Asian women, that this emaciated trend will continue.

The size zero model will not become part of a wider roster of fashion imagery, until we kiss fashion goodbye. Cindy Crawford tells women to do just that.

No word yet whether or not the Svedka model will be working for Ralph Lauren or Karl Lagerfeld.Add the fact that we live in the airbrushed digital age, when women can become anything men wish visually, and you can expect us to become caricatures of our real selves. There’s unimaginable power in that computer design mouse, trust me.

Curve Power

The word “curvy” evolved as a positive word for women over size 12 or 14. It was a form of positive psychology to get plus-size women to love themselves and see their own beauty. In loving themselves, we hoped they would get healthy and care about eating more nutritiously.

Today, ‘curvy’ and ‘plus’ size describe the 80s supermodels, who are now fat and plus-size. This is insane. If I can’t be satisfied looking like Cindy Crawford (I don’t), then let’s just give up on fashion. It’s become totally Kafkaesque and destructive to our sanity.

As fashion victims, we behave like sheepish women who never ask for a raise but complain about not getting one. We wait for men to see and validate our value. Without their affirmation, we must not be worth much.

Where’s the liberation in kowtowing to men who don’t like us in the first place?

Did Coco Chanel kowtow? No. Katherine Hepburn? Nada. Angelina Jolie or Madonna? Not on your life. So what’s our damn problem that we are dictated to by men who deny that a woman with any curves is beautiful?

Maybe when babies are born in incubators in the future, then women will lose their curves. Today, biology is destiny, within reason.

It’s time for a return to Curve Power. Let’s have models with personalities, who do good work for people in the planet, whatever their size 0-14. Perhaps designer egos are totally out of control, thinking that women are coat racks for clothes. Let’s show them we’re not fashion road kill.

Perhaps we need a fourth wave of feminism, one that is a true international collaboration among women of every age, size, marital status and sexuality persuasion.

In a bit of encouraging news, my earlier post Every Woman Should Own a Copy of “Uncovered” & Watch Meredith Viera’s NBC “Today Show” interview with Jordan Matter is gaining some Internet traction, moving into our top 10 articles the last several days.

This article was written before the Ralph Lauren incidents and focuses on the challenges that women have accepting our naked bodies as beautiful, not disgusting.  Meredith’s interview was very well done, and I urge you to watch the video.

After watching the Today Show interview and reading about Jordan Matter’s book “Uncovered”, think about another fact of female physiology, one in your own brain.

I can imagine your response, when I wrote “just say no” to totally unhealthy and unattainable and undesireable fashion-industry images. You think that because these images are everywhere, that you must absorb them.

Not true. As a woman of any size, you can train your brain to hate the model and even the brand, not yourself for failing to live up to the size zero standard of beauty.

The Brain’s Reticular Activating System of RAS

The brain system controlling our conscious perceptions is called the ‘reticular activating system’ or RAS. This data filtering brain mechanism asks three essential questions while processing billions of data bits in minutes: 1. Is the information important for our survival? 2. Is the information new or different? 3. Does the information have high emotional content for us?

You’ve read about visualization techniques, and heard expressions like “mind over matter”. This is the essence of RAS.

In my case, I’ve programmed my mind to reject body images that look like concentration-camp victims because I know that they are unhealthy and deadly. I’m too smart a woman to be led around by the nose, with fashion imagery that kills and maims women.

Today, my brain responds favorably only to photos of the 80s supermodels as beautiful, healthy, desirable women. I adore Lara Stone but not if she becomes a size zero. I do exercise frequently and I admit that being attractive is important to me.

My brain totally rejects as ugly, non-sexual, and powerless the images of Karl Lagerfeld women. I am so opposed to their effect on me, that I’m not even aware that my RAS brain system wouldn’t let them pass into my conscious mind.

Free at last! The tyranny is over! You can do the same, ladies, just like an indy French woman.

You can override fashion industry images with your brain’s own RAS system. You can implement the same system with food ads (Big Macs and Whoppers make me retch, and it’s all mental) and any other commercial message you chose to ignore.

So ladies, we have far more power over our minds than we realize. As consumers, we do not have to accept any standard of beauty the industry perpetuates. Just make them into harmful, negative, hated RAS messages and your brain will respond pronto.

Do not be ambivalent. This is a willful decision on your part, and you must remain consistent.

If you’re hot (or want to be) and you’d like to kick a little butt in life, you must have better legs to stand on, than the ones favored by Karl Lagerfeld.

Steven Klein Shoots Lara Stone in W Mag’s The Academy

Steven Klein shoots Lara Stone in The Academy for W Magazine; via Sexy FuturesIf you choose Karl’s preferred body type because you love it, fine. God bless you, my dear. It’s your right.

However, as a strong Smart Sensuality woman who likes fashion, you do not have to accept size zero models as a gold standard of beauty, because “no one loves curves.”

Lagerfeld’s statement condemns women, and we don’t have to swallow the Kaiser’s opinions, when he freely admits that he has no sensual response to women in the first place.

Strong, deeply sensual, Amazonian women like the 80s supermodels are Karl Lagerfeld’s worst nightmare. Both Freud and Jung would agree on that fact. In the same way that Steven Klein imbues Lara Stone with power in The Academy, Karl Lagerfeld takes it away in “Fitting Room Follies”

Tell your RAS system to only admit messages from men who truly love women not as property, or commercial revenue, or as submissive helpmates, or lesser beings of any sort, and you will surround yourself with men (and women) who will speed you on the road to self-confidence and self-love in countries that allow it legally.

Of course, only you can drive your own roadster.

I promise you, there is relief ahead from fashion-image tyranny and sniping fashionistas, if you put yourself in charge of your own RAS system, train it to loathe designers who don’t love real women, and don’t take your foot off the gas pedal for ANY reason.

Love to all. Anne

Cindy Crawford | 90’s Size 6 Supermodels Would Be Plus-Size Today 

Lizzie Miller Body Image Model and Beauty Debate Update

Reader Comments (10)

to the comment about no one wants to look at a women with curves..says the gay man.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

it is possible to program your brain to think differently about those ads, but tenagers are not able to do that.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterme

Afrter ready your article on female sexuality was I totally shocked and realized how some of us women have become en-slave to the size 0 thing. I want to thank you for putting this effort to enligthen us all , it was very useful.
Thanks

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Hi Angela. You're a beautiful young woman. I'm intrigued that you are in Oslo. I will definitely contact you by email. Would love to hear your thoughts about life in Norway. I hold the Scandinavian countries in very high regard.

Yes, this issue is a passion of mine. I believe in good health and style as you know. But when you tell me that Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford -- that entire crew of women with kick-butt bodies are 'fat' -- I tell you that you are a little man (or little men) with a very BIG problem. It's called misogyny and you can't tolerate female bodies that radiate our God-given sensuality. I think we now have Franca Sozzani from Italian Vogue on our side. I have every reason to believe that the entire fashion crew is reading these articles, based on a private 'altercation' I had with a Parisian publicist who will remain nameless but represents another designer very close to the kingmaker.

June 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterAnne

Hi Anne,

Just a note from the "supportive husband"... :)

I've been hearing about the campaign against the size 0 models in the UK for years - thanks to many trips abroad. Thank you for bringing the fight onto these shores.

July 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

You're very welcome, Paul. Alas, things have gotten worse since I first wrote this piece, but the last couple of months, we have the topic front and center in the fashion industry. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

July 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterAnne

Lagerfeld is full of sh*t. This male - and I suspect many besides me - considers Hendricks to be the feminine ideal. I wish there were more shaped like her, she's gorgeous. I get really annoyed with these so-called fashion moguls dictating what women should look like, when most of them consider women to be no more than dollies to dress up as boys. It's sick.

I'm andro, straight and male and the kind of women I love and derive inspiration from have curves. Bring back the fifties and the real women!! -- I. xx

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIain

Sorry ladies but many of you are full of it!

1) The average women in America is a size 13 but that does not make size 13 good or acceptable it means that the average woman is out of shape and unhealthy.

2) Women ARE JUST AS SUPERFICIAL AS MEN! I am 6’1″ 194 with muscles. I work out and eat well but I DO have a tiny bit of belly fat that pushes out the bottom of my shirt (I can pinch about 2 inches to give you an idea. And I have had women say “you are attractive but you would be so much more attractive if you lost 5 pounds and had a six pack!” Yet Women complain if men don't find Lizzie's little jelly roll attractive.

4) At one time in my life I gained 40 pounds and really looked and felt unattractive and unhealthy. Guess what I did? I changed what I ate and hit the gym! No the weight is off and I look good and feel even better. Do not make the fact that you do not want to eat right, exercise regularly and take control of your body about men being superficial…..

5) All those 80's supermodels were CONSTANTLY being accused of being too thin or too airbrushed, of hurting women's self image now all of a sudden they are poster children for health???? this complaint about "the media makes us hate ourselves" has been around for decades...it seems no matter how media changes the complaints continue.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

The point of the article is about downsizing models from size 4-6 to 0 for the reasons stated. I have no issue with the Supermodels as size 4-6 inspirational examples of good bodies. They had breasts, hips and bodies that were achievable, hot and muscular. The supermodels weren't constantly accused of being too thin to the best of my recollection. They were celebrated as strong, sexy, powerful women. Could you give me your research on the assertion that they, too, were maligned by vast numbers of women. Not so. They were celebrated in a way that today's models are not.

Lots of "self" and little resonance with the facts of the discussion in your commentary, Mike. The point was??? Also, your comment 1 is constantly acknowledged on this website, but that's not the topic under discussion here if you read closely.

So your intellectual purpose in this comment was??? You kinda sound like the Republican party today saying there is no Republican war on women -- it's all in our heads. The ideal woman has been downsized from a 4-6 to size 0 since the 90s. Why? That's what we want you to address. Why was it necessary to strip women of breasts, hips, an ounce of fat, visible muscle and sensual power? Male unease I would say, and women editors from what I hear, didn't want the competition from hot models with a voice. Today 7 % of women could achieve this 'ideal' body if you wanted it in the first place.

My point, is for American women to stop worrying about it, be our best selves, and program our brains to just stop worrying about size 0 models in the way I have programmed my brain to detest fat and fast food. . I -- for one -- don't want to be that size 0 woman ever, and I do want to be my best self. She is not a vision that holds any appeal for me. Women don't have to take every zig zag twist ourselves in and out that the fashion industry throws at us. I love fashion, but I prefer to drive my own sense of self and beauty. Your comment in #5 is way off. Bring the evidence that the 80's supermodels were CONSTANTLY accused of being too thin. I'd love to read it.

April 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterAnne

Hi Anne,

I've just discovered your wonderful blog today, and it made me want to share.
I have never been a size 0. I have always had giant breasts, and fluctuated between 140 lbs/ size 10, and 220 lbs/size 22. I don't even think my skeleton could fit into a size 0. Ever since I acquired breasts I hated them. I have always had a super curvy figure through all my size changes, and have never lost my waist/hip ratio.

But I have always struggled with my own image/identity. At one point, I became so frustrated with the images of tiny breastless women, that I stopped buying fashion magazines. I began to notice that I was becoming irritable and depressed after watching t.v., and realized I was reacting to the conflicting commercials. Some had rail-thin women, where others had decadent foods. I've stopped watching any form of t.v. that has commercials. I still love to watch movies, but again, finding a body type like mine is rare in t.v. or movies.

I just remind myself that many of these actresses are telling a story, and they are supposed to represent the common woman. If that is the case, hollywood is failing as a whole. I find it genuinely amusing, because they put so much effort and money into creating these images, movies, and stories, only to inherently fail in their aim. The fashion industry is viewed the same way, through my layman's lens. To me, the point of putting clothes on models, is to show potential buyers how it may look on their body. Well, considering there are very few potential buyers that look like that, the failure is kind of immense. It's as though the entire fashion industry is trying to design and sell clothes to a small handful of women. That's just plain silliness.

The difference in my life without commercials, or magazine ads is amazing. Without the poison of commercials, (either via magazine or t.v.), dealing with my self-image has gotten better. Now it's a matter of dealing with my health and what's best for me, not any random/faceless industry that wants to sell me something.

June 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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